The Fault in Our Stars
For the upcoming film based on the novel, see The Fault in Our Stars (film).
|The Fault in Our Stars|
|Cover artist||Rodrigo Corral|
|Genre||Young adult novel|
|January 10, 2012|
|Media type||Print (hardcover, paperback)|
The Fault in Our Stars is the fourth novel by author John Green, published in January 2012. The story is narrated by a sixteen-year-old cancer patient named Hazel, who is forced by her parents to attend a support group, where she subsequently meets and falls in love with the seventeen-year-old Augustus Waters, an ex-basketball player and amputee.
The title is inspired by a famous line from Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar (Act 1, scene 2). The nobleman Cassius says to Brutus, 'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.'
In January 2012, the film rights to the book were optioned by Fox 2000, and on February 19, 2013, it was announced that Josh Boone would be directing the film. It is set to star Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort and Nat Wolff.
The story takes place in Indianapolis, Indiana, where sixteen year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster reluctantly attends a cancer patients' support group at her mother’s behest. Because of her cancer, she uses a portable oxygen tank to breathe properly. In one of the meetings she catches the eye of a teenage boy, and through the course of the meeting she learns the boy’s name is Augustus Waters. He's there to support their mutual friend, Isaac. Isaac had a tumor in one eye that he had removed, and now he has to have his other eye taken out as well. After the meeting ends, Augustus approaches Hazel and tells her she looks like Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta. He invites Hazel to his house to watch the movie, and while hanging out, the two discuss their experiences with cancer. Hazel reveals she has thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs. Augustus had osteosarcoma, but he is now cancer free after having his leg amputated. Before Augustus takes Hazel home, they agree to read one another’s favorite novels. Augustus gives Hazel The Price of Dawn, and Hazel recommends An Imperial Affliction.
Hazel explains the magnificence of An Imperial Affliction: It is a novel about a girl named Anna who has cancer, and it's the only account she's read of living with cancer that matches her experience. She describes how the novel maddeningly ends midsentence, denying the reader closure about the fate of the novel’s characters. She speculates about the novel’s mysterious author, Peter Van Houten, who fled to Amsterdam after the novel was published and hasn’t been heard from since.
A week after Hazel and Augustus discuss the literary meaning of An Imperial Affliction, Augustus miraculously reveals he tracked down Van Houten's assistant, Lidewij, and through her he's managed to start an email correspondence with the reclusive author. He shares Van Houten's letter with Hazel, and she devises a list of questions to send Van Houten, hoping to clear up the novel’s ambiguous conclusion. Hazel is most concerned with the fate of Anna’s mother. She figures that if Anna’s mother survives her daughter’s death, then her own parents will be alright after Hazel dies. Van Houten eventually replies, saying he could only answer Hazel’s questions in person. He invites her to stop by if she is ever in Amsterdam. Shortly after Augustus invites Hazel on a picnic. It turns out he's planned an elaborate Dutch-themed picnic where he reveals that a charitable foundation that grants the wishes of kids with cancer has agreed to grant his: he's taking the two of them to Amsterdam to meet Van Houten. She is thrilled, but when he touches her face she feels hesitant for some reason. Over time she realizes that she likes him a lot, but she knows she'll hurt him when she dies. She compares herself to a grenade.
In the midst of her struggle over what to do about Augustus, Hazel suffers a serious episode in which her lungs fill with fluid and she goes to the ICU. When she is released after a period of days, she learns that Augustus never left the hospital’s waiting room. He delivers Hazel another letter from Van Houten, this one more personal and more cryptic than the last. After reading the letter, Hazel is more determined than ever to go to Amsterdam. There is a problem though: Her parents and her team of doctors don’t think Hazel is strong enough to travel. The situation seems hopeless until one of the physicians most familiar with her case, Dr. Maria, convinces Hazel’s parents that Hazel must travel because she needs to live her life.
The plans are made for Augustus, Hazel, and Hazel's mother to go to Amsterdam, but when Hazel and Augustus meet Van Houten they find that, instead of a prolific genius, he is a mean-spirited drunk who claims he cannot answer any of Hazel’s questions. The two leave Van Houten’s in utter disappointment, and accompanied by Lidewij, who feels horrified by Van Houten's behavior, they tour Anne Frank’s house. At the end of the tour, Augustus and Hazel share a romantic kiss, to the applause of spectators. They head back to the hotel where they make love for the first and only time.
The following day, Augustus confesses that while Hazel was in the ICU he had a body scan which revealed his cancer has returned and spread everywhere. They return to Indianapolis, and Hazel realizes Augustus is now the grenade. As his condition worsens he is less prone to his typical charm and confidence. He becomes vulnerable and scared, but is still a beautiful boy in Hazel’s mind. As this change occurs, she ceases calling him Augustus and starts referring to him as just Gus, as his parents do. Hazel recognizes that she loves him now as much as ever. Augustus’s condition deteriorates quickly. In his final days Augustus arranges a prefuneral for himself, and Isaac and Hazel give eulogies. Hazel steals a line from Van Houten about larger and smaller infinities. She says how much she loves Augustus, and that she would not trade their short time together for anything in the world.
Augustus dies eight days later. Hazel is astonished to find Van Houten at the funeral. Van Houten explains that he and Gus maintained correspondence and that Augustus demanded Van Houten make up for ruining the trip to Amsterdam by coming to his funeral to see Hazel. Van Houten abstractly reveals the fate of Anna’s mother, but Hazel is not interested.
A few days later Isaac informs Hazel that Augustus was writing something for her. He had hinted about writing a sequel to An Imperial Affliction for her, and as Hazel scrambles to locate the pages she encounters Van Houten once more. He drunkenly reveals that Anna was the name of his daughter. She died of cancer when she was eight, and An Imperial Affliction was his literary attempt at reconciling himself with her death. Hazel tells Van Houten to sober up and write another book.
Eventually Hazel learns that Augustus sent the pages to Van Houten because he wanted Van Houten to use the pages to compose a well-written eulogy about Hazel. Lidewij forces Van Houten to read the pages and sends them straight off to Hazel. The novel concludes with Hazel reading Augustus’s words. He says getting hurt in this world is inevitable, but we do get to choose who we allow to hurt us, and that he is happy with his choice. He hopes she likes her choice too. The final words of the novel come from Hazel, who says she does.
Green stated that the first inspiration for The Fault in Our Stars came from when he worked as a student chaplain at a children's hospital. He found the children to be as human as healthy people, and wanted to capture the feeling that "the stories that I was reading sort of oversimplified and sometimes even dehumanized them. And I think generally we have a habit of imagining the very sick or the dying as being kind of fundamentally other. I guess I wanted to argue for their humanity, their complete humanity." He was initially intimidated by the idea and knew that it was not his story to tell, but said he has received positive comments from sick children. The novel was also influenced by Esther Earl, a girl whom Green was friends with who died when she was 16 years old of thyroid cancer. Green credits Earl for inspiring him to finally write the book, as she demonstrated how a short life could also be a full one. Green was able to add the humor he wanted to the story, as in 2000 when he received the inspiration at the hospital he was too angry at people dying young that he did not feel he would be able to capture the complexity of their lives. In its early stages, the novel was about a group of young cancer patients who formed a "Dead Person's Society", and would sneak out to convene in a cave near the children's hospital. The birth of his first child during the writing process also influenced The Fault in Our Stars, as it allowed him to understand the love between parent and child.
Green once considered writing the story from Isaac's point of view, as it fit into the epic genre, going so far as the storyteller being blind. Ultimately, he decided to use Hazel's point of view, as books rarely depict cancer patients from their point of view. Hazel's father's belief that "the universe wants to be noticed" came from YouTuber Vi Hart, who explained her point of view to Green in conversation. Green has stated that the last line of the book, "I do", symbolizes marriage because "Shakespeare's comedies end in marriage and his tragedies end in death, and I was rather fond of the idea that my book could end (symbolically, at least) in both."
On December 21, 2011, Barnes & Noble accidentally shipped 1500 copies of The Fault in Our Stars before the release date to people who had pre-ordered the book. Green released a statement saying, "Mistakes happen. The people who made this error were not bad or incompetent people, and they were not acting maliciously. We all make mistakes, and it is not my wish to see Barnes and Noble or any of their employees vilified." Many people who received the book pledged not to read it until its release date, January 10, 2012, or discuss it until the next day, January 11, as per a request of Green's not to spoil it for other readers. Most kept to this promise leaving the experience untarnished for those who got the book on intended release date.
The book rose to #1 on the Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble bestseller lists in June 2011 shortly after its title was announced. Green promised that every pre-order would be hand-signed by him, requiring him to sign every copy of the first printing. He proposed that the general public vote on the color Sharpie he would use to sign the books, resulting in him signing the 150,000 books with a variety of Sharpie colors, each in proportion to the amount of votes received for that color. However, some people who ordered from international booksellers received unsigned copies because those bookstores, including Amazon UK, underestimated how many books they needed and ordered more after the signing was complete, but Green agreed to fix this problem, telling people with unsigned pre-orders to email him so they could be sent a signed bookplate. Many fans submitted their book cover designs to various outlets including Tumblr and Twitter, tagging Green in these posts so he could see them. The sizeable number of posts received has prompted Green's publisher Penguin to seek a fan designed cover for a reprint of one of Green's other books, An Abundance of Katherines. The Fault in Our Stars debuted at #1 on The New York Times Best Seller list for Children's Chapter Books and remained in that spot for seven consecutive weeks. A Hebrew edition of The Fault in Our Stars was published in Israel on August 2012 and more editions of the novel are forthcoming in Dutch, German, Spanish, French, Swedish, Danish, Icelandic, Chinese, and Portuguese. The Fault in Our Stars has also gained places on several bestseller lists. It was #1 on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list, #1 on the Indiebound bestseller list, and #9 on The Bookseller bestseller list. The novel was also the New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice. As of January 2013, there are nearly 1 million copies of the novel in print. In December 2012 it was announced that a special edition with a silver cover and an expanded Q&A, dubbed the 'Exclusive Collector's Edition', would be available from Barnes and Noble. All or at least most of the copies first available for purchase of this edition of the book contained a printing error wherein several pages of the first chapter were replaced with pages from the Q&A section at the back of the book.
The Fault in Our Stars has received highly positive reviews from critics. The New York Times' review of the book called it "a blend of melancholy, sweet, philosophical and funny" and said that it "stays the course of tragic realism", while noting that the book's unpleasant plot details "do nothing to diminish the romance; in Green’s hands, they only make it more moving." NPR's Rachel Syme noted that "[Green's] voice is so compulsively readable that it defies categorization," saying that the "elegantly plotted" book "may be his best."  Time called The Fault in Our Stars "damn near genius." Entertainment Weekly wrote, "[Augustus and Hazel's] love story is as real as it is doomed, and the gut-busting laughs that come early in the novel make the luminous final pages all the more heartbreaking", and gave the novel an overall A− grade. Amazon.com calls it “insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw” and Green’s “most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet.” The Manila Bulletin says that the book is "a collection of maudlin scenes and trite observations about the fragility of life and the wisdom of dying. And while it does talk about those things and more, the treatment of it is far from being maudlin or trite." The Manila Bulletin also added that "Just two paragraphs into the work, and he immediately wallops the readers with such an insightful observation delivered in such an unsentimental way that its hard not to shake your head in admiration." The Manila Bulletin stated that The Fault in Our Stars was a triumph for John Green. USA Today called it a "elegiac comedy." They gave the book a rating of four out of four stars.The School Library Journal stated that it was "a strong choice for Adult Collections." The Fault in Our Stars received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, who described it as "a smartly crafted intellectual explosion of a romance."
Several well-known authors have contributed their own positive reviews for the book. Jodi Picoult, author of My Sister's Keeper, calls The Fault in Our Stars "an electric portrait of young people who learn to live life with one foot in the grave." She goes on to say that the novel is "filled with staccato bursts of humor and tragedy." Bestselling author of The Book Thief, Markus Zusak, describes it as "a novel of life and death and the people caught in between" and "John Green at his best". Pertaining to Green's writing throughout the book, E. Lockhart, author of The Boyfriend List, says "He makes me laugh and gasp at the beauty of a sentence or the twist of a tale. He is one of the best writers alive and I am seething with envy of his talent." Time named The Fault in Our Stars as the #1 fiction book of 2012. Kirkus Reviews listed it among the top 100 children's books of 2012. It also made USA Today's list of the top 10 books of 2012. In 2013, the Edmonton Journal named the book one of their "favourite books of the year."
One notable unfavorable opinion appeared in the Daily Mail. In the piece, the plot of The Fault in Our Stars was described as ″mawkish at best, exploitative at worst″ and the book was characterized as belonging to the ″sick-lit″ young adult genre, together with other young-adult novels such as Never Eighteen and Before I Die. This entire genre, as well as the genre of young-adult novels dealing with suicide and self-harm (the piece mentions Thirteen Reasons Why; By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead; The Lovely Bones; and Red Tears) was criticized as being ″distasteful″ and inappropriate for their target audience of teens. The Guardian criticized the piece, pointing out in particular that The Fault in Our Stars was chosen by The Guardian as that month's ″teen book club choice″ because ″it's a gripping read, featuring two compelling characters, that deals sensitively and even humorously with a difficult situation without descending into mawkishness.″ In general, The Guardian faulted The Daily Mail for suggesting that the issues of illness, depression, and sexuality are inappropriate precisely ″in the one place where difficult subjects have traditionally been most sensitively explored for teens: fiction written specifically for them.″ However, Meg Rosoff, a writer of young adult novels, sided with The Daily Mail in her comment to the reply by writing in her blog, Almost True, "Don't throw the baby out with the Sick Lit." For his part, in an interview for The Guardian, John Green said, ″The thing that bothered me about The Daily Mail piece was that it was a bit condescending to teenagers. I'm tired of adults telling teenagers that they aren't smart, that they can't read critically, that they aren't thoughtful, and I feel like that article made those arguments.″
In January 2012, Fox 2000, a division of 20th Century Fox, optioned the rights to adapt the novel into a feature film. Josh Boone signed on to direct a year later, in February 2013. Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen are producing the film. Shailene Woodley will star as Hazel, while Ansel Elgort will play Augustus. Nat Wolff was cast as Isaac, the friend that introduces them, and Laura Dern will star as Hazel's mother. Sam Trammell was cast as Mr. Lancaster, Hazel's father. On August 29, 2013, John Green announced that Mike Birbiglia would be playing the role of Patrick, and on September 6, 2013, Green announced that Willem Dafoe would portray Peter van Houten.
Filming began on August 26, 2013 in Pittsburgh, doubling for the novel's setting of Indianapolis, Indiana. Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber wrote the adapted screenplay. Filming also took place in Amsterdam. The film is planned to be released on June 6, 2014.
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